The customs department stopped a Chinese vessel with questionable cargo on 3 February near the Kandla port in Gujarat. The vessel, carrying a machine used to launch ballistic missiles, was going to Port Qasim in Karachi, where the Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission of Pakistan is located. Pakistan’s ballistic missile programme runs from there.
A team of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) investigated the vessel once and is in the process of re-investigating it. The vessel had set sail from the Jiangyin Port in China and had halted at the Kandla port.
The customs department has apprised higher investigating agencies of the country of the development.
Although high officials have not made any public comment about this, it is known by now that the vessel is named Da Cui Yun and it is carrying the Hong Kong flag. The customs department stopped the vessel based on a tip-off.
National security officials and officials of the Ministry of External Affairs have refused to share detailed information about the vessel. However, the DRDO team has already investigated the suspected autoclave.
An autoclave is a pressure chamber used in industrial and scientific processes. It can be used in both civil and military operations. It is about 17-18 m in length and about 4 m in width.
The second high-level team of DRDO comprising missile scientists visited the Kandla port on Monday. If their findings match the first team’s, the customs department will take possession of the vessel. A case will then be registered against the vessel and its owners.
Indian security officials are taking no chances as China and Pakistan have entered secret agreements. Their joint stratagem against India unravelled 30 years ago in 1989 when Islamabad had signed a deal to buy 34 M-11 ballistic missiles from Beijing. This 500 kg missile is capable of carrying warheads weighing up to 300 kg.
Meanwhile, Pakistan bought 12 to 25 No-Dong missiles from North Korea. During the Kargil War in 1999, a North Korean ship was caught near Kandla, carrying missile equipment under the cover of a water-repellent device.
China is known to the world as an all-weather friend of Pakistan.